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Address: 2223 Lockhead Road

Location: Lot 25, Con 4

Date and Fabric: attributed to c.1820 on another site and much modified; clapboard over log

Known Owners:

Thomson connection c.1820 - 1967
Bruce 1967 -

photograph 1997

photograph 1997

Also 1990 and 1986 photographs of house and barn.

One of the oldest farms in Rideau Township is the former Thomson farm, which numbers among its existing buildings two very old structures: a barn raised in 1826 and a log house built a few years before. Belden's County Atlas of 1879 writes of the barn that "it appears to have been the first frame building erected in North Gower [Township]. 54 The farm is about two kilometres south of North Gower on the north side of Lockhead Road. It is now [1986] owned by the Bruce family. They bought it in 1967 from Mr. Colin Thomson, the fifth generation of his family to have lived on the farm.

The farm's history begins in 1817 with the emigration of John Thomson and his brother William from Dumfries, Scotland. The brothers settled in South Gower upon arriving in Canada and John was joined in 1819 by his wife Janet, who was probably accompanied by the couples' three Scottish-born sons.

In 1826 the family moved to North Gower where John Thomson had acquired lots 25 to 28 in Concession 3. A few years earlier, Thomson had built a log house on a small knoll on the eastern corner of lot 25. This knoll now overlooks the new highway 16 from the west at Lockhead Road. In 1826 the barn was raised about a kilometre west of the house with the help of some 15 to 20 friends from South Gower. The house was then moved to the site of the barn and the current homestead.

Both buildings were made of log and shared the same basic construction with the exception that the barn had a timber frame. Tongued and grooved logs stabilized with studs formed the walls, while the roofs were made of pine or cedar shingles. The inside house walls were covered in lath and plaster. Mr. Colin Thomson remembers finding on the property a number of old lime kilns which were used for "slacking" the lime. 55 The lime was heated and stirred for several days before reaching the required consistency for making the best plaster. Mr. Thomson suggested that the original floor was supported by log joists.

A few years after settling, John Thomson returned to Dumfries to claim his wife's share in her father's estate and chanced to sail on the maiden voyage of the first steam vessel built on the Clyde. One of John Thomson's sons, Gilbert, soon started one of the Township's first stores. Tokens, rather than actual money, were used for purchases and Mr. Colin Thomson has recently sent some of these tokens to the Bank of Canada Currency Museum in Ottawa. According to dated invoices that Mr. Thomson has, the store operated at least from 1838 to 1845.

John Thomson divided his four North Gower lots among his sons and daughters and eventually retired on the farm where he died at age 96. Well before his 1873 death, though, the title had passed to his son Robert, probably around 1850. Robert moved to Kars at the end of his farming days and the house passed to his son Gilbert in 1886. In 1890 Gilbert began a major renovation of the old log house. A basement was dug out underneath the house and an addition containing a kitchen was put on the back [north] side. The whole exterior was then clapboarded.

After Glibert's death in 1895 his wife, Ellen, operated the farm until 1915. In 1897 John Callendar installed a high-roofed middle section on the barn, thus widening it. In 1910 the henhouse/pigsty and a machine shed were built by Tom Mains and a Mr. Baker. In 1915 the farm passed from Ellen to her son Cameron Thomson who became a Justice of the Peace in 1934. In 1917 more work was done on the barn in the form of a large western extension, and in the same year a silo was built.

In 1941 Cameron's son Colin built a sunporch and the next year he inherited the farm from his father. Sometime around 1960, Mr. Thomson remodelled the summer kitchen and woodshed into a permanent kitchen and bedroom. Mr. Thomson continued to farm the land as his forefathers had done and became a ploughman of distinction. In 1953 and again in 1954 Mr. Thomson was World Contour Ploughing Champion, winning at two international matches. In 1967, Mr. Thomson retired from farming to sell insurance, and sold the farm to the Bruces.

Mr. Bruce has added a fireplace to the house. Both the original barn and the original log house have long been incorporated into larger structures but, to a knowing eye, they are still noticeable as worthy heritage buildings. It seems probable that they are among the oldest buildings surviving in the Township.

[after Peter Davidson, 1986. Sources 2, 5. The file indicates that in October of that year, the text was checked and amended by Mr. Colin Thomson]

54 page xxxix

55 The remains of one of these kilns is still clearly visible to the north-west of the knoll where the house was first located.

March, 1990

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